Adrian Bonenberger, author of "Afghan Post" and veteran of two tours, reflects on the withdrawal announcement, the MRAP boondoggle, and reporting fraud
In the end, the American Empire has been about the looting of the American taxpayer in the name of spreading democracy by killing third world residents. It's a farce that serves the interests of DC in the most cynical way possible.
Why doesn’t anybody remember the real reason we are in “endless wars” everywhere. Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex many years ago. Many big corporations got extremely wealthy from Vietnam. The phoney excuse then was to stop the expansion of communism. At the same time, the first chapter of the Air Force Officer Training manual stated that the domino theory no longer was valid because we had nuclear weapons. 60,000 bright young lives were sacrificed for a phoney excuse. That war also taught government that nobody had to sell war bonds to finance the nonsense, they could just take the money from taxpayers. Then it became so easy to launch wars anywhere, Kosovo, South America, Afghanistan, Iraq, or anywhere else. Now we have corporations paying for campaigns of Congressmen through the Citizens United Ruling, so money flows to fund new wars. Dick Cheney’s company, Halliburton, made 39 billion dollars from the Iraq war. No wonder he lied about “yellow cake uranium”.
Washington hated a lot of things about Trump, but the one they hated the most was his bringing the troops home and his refusal to start new wars anywhere.
Jesus, that was gutting.
I remember when the Afghan Papers came out near the end of the Trump presidency. A pretty staggering piece of reporting that laid out plainly how little we were accomplishing and at how great a cost. But because both parties have been complicit in the fraud, it was politely ignored after a week or two. We seem to do the same with stories about drug pricing, student debt, law enforcement overreach, and on and on: if the GOP and Dems are in essential lockstep, the story doesn't get mainstream play for long. It doesn't work if "both sides" are villains.
I was in the military during this period, although I had a cushy job compared to Mr. Bonenberger.
It's hard for non-military people to imagine what a bubble of thinking the military creates for its members. While I was in I thought Afghanistan and Iraq made sense. It took a few years of being out of that culture to realize what a horrendous mistake it was. I suppose it's what veterans of every war go through. I two used the "where helping the women and children" rationalization. I'm surprised how many people still cling to that despite all the evidence showing what bullshit it is.
The war was not just a disaster for Afghanistan and the US military, but for the US domestic population as well. Before 9/11 people in my town would openly express doubts about their government. After 9/11 people started speaking in hushed tones out of fear they would be overheard my fellow citizens or their government. I trace the culture of fear that now defines America to that. Not only did we accomplish nothing but waste a lot of money and human lives in Afghanistan, but we surrendered our rights at home under the Patriot Act and turned our domestic police force into an occupying Army with surplus weapons from the war machine through the 1033 transfers. We raised an entire generation of cops who function more like the Israeli security force than a domestic organization here to maintain the peace and order. I first witnessed what our police had become in Ferguson, MO in 2014, but it all goes back to the war.
I have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Bonenberger. It sucks when you give your life to a cause you believe in that only later you learn was a big lie actually made your country worse. He mentions Bin Laden as a cause of the war, who was still alive when I got out. I remember telling my friends when I left they needed to get that guy. It's tragic to admit now that Bin Laden accomplished all of his goals with 3 planes. He won the war by a long shot and would be proud of what he did not make this country what it has become.
If we don’t get out of Afghanistan and Iraq soon I suggest we model our military command structure after King Richard The Lion-heart’s crusade’s command structure. All of the members in the executive and legislative branches of government, and their family members, need to be relocated to the battlefields so they can lead by example. Liz Cheney, dust off your combat boots honey.
Just imagine if, after 9/11, G W had, as opposed to demonstrating his tuffness [sic] by sending in the US military to Afghanistan and Iraq, clamped down on the inflow of non citizens coming into the country. Just impose some serious vetting on those wanting to come in and we probably would have been more secure than we have been since 9/11. But who would have done the work we don’t want to do, for minimum wage; right?
GW Bush, what a joke!
War has always and will always be a racket. This is yet another example of why we shouldn't allow other people to choose our friends or enemies for us. The "war on terror" in reality is a war of terror waged on the peasants by the so called elites
When you suck at leading you rely upon these sorts of tactics to make up for your lack of talent.
The reason we have the police state we currently live in is due to the war criminals within our governments and the people who own them trying to avoid justice for their crimes.
We're not being protected from anything, the elite are being protected from us.
Not until we see a war crimes tribunal, some trials, and some sentencing not corrupted by money will the human race be able to advance beyond its current dualistic ideology that keeps it so deluded that we keep falling for these bullshit us vs them fairy tales that get made up to justify the whims of yet another trust fund baby or "royal" family within the empire.
Until the war crimes trials happen things will just continue to get more brutal and cartoonish, divisive and hypocritical.
I feel so badly for these kids who got duped into this disaster as well as all the other empirical forever war "investments" that the kleptocracy has and is creating.
Smedley Butler called this shit out for what it was decades ago.
The racket is now considered normal.
I served during the Vietnam debacle; after which, for a short time I actually believed the U.S. could never make so ridiculous a mistake again. Then I realized the only thing about Vietnam that the imperial war machine considered to be a mistake was that public sentiment forced an end to the "game". Were it not for the millions upon millions of deaths, casualties and lives ruined by the insanity that is us (e.g., the U.S. and our bullied and/or bought partners in playing endless war); then laughter at things like the Humvee armor "solution", etc. might bring some relief. But I find myself somberly shaking my head in disbelief, because I know there will continue to be Vietnams, Iraqs, and Afghanistans for as long as the arrogant and unrepentant imperial mindset of American "exceptionalism" exists.
We should go to war only when there's an immediate, existential threat. There are always saner options otherwise, just that they aren't as politically satisfying and don't make military contractors rich.
I'm in a rare if not unique position with two close family members with intimate knowledge of Afghanistan: one a 6-year resident of Kabul during the late 00s-early 10s (married to a native, outside the "green zone") and the other an Army medical officer deployed there twice for a total of almost 18 months. Of course even their insider perspectives are anecdotal, but nothing they told me upended my 19-year-old armchair perspective that the cause itself was unrealistic if not insane.
MT: "What’s your prognosis for what happens now?"
Adrian Bonenberger: "The Taliban already have, by fairly conservative estimates, the run of 80% of the country. So the Taliban are already there. I think the hope with Afghanistan was always going to be that we could support the Afghans who are interested in a non-Taliban government for enough time for them to get their act together.
If we continue to support them diplomatically and economically, they have a chance, but in the same way that the USSR supported their communist administration in Kabul for I think two or three years before the USSR fell apart. It held on. It wasn't doing great, but it was doing okay. I think we can achieve that.
If we can’t, then that’s the most damning indictment possible of everything that we did there, including the things that I did there that I thought were good, and was doing for the right reasons. It means that all of that was just pissing in the wind. The next time we do this, I hope we’ll keep that in mind and do it better, or not at all."
Empire pissing in the wind - how many countries have we pissed on since WW2, telling the residents it's raining capitalism?
Great article, but why does everybody neglect to mention that Trump was getting us out this month, Biden SLOWED that timetable and possibly endangered it altogether. Biden's trying to take credit for leaving while screwing it all up.
Of course the media never once mentions this.
So, basically, the military-industrial complex is alive and well. Great. Good to know.
I do hope that Biden follows through and pulls every single soldier out of Afghanistan. I mean, seriously, what the fuck are we even doing there? This guy Adrian has to fight his way to and from some place just to make sure a 20 million dollar “school” is being used in the way it was intended? What the fuck is that?
However, it makes me worried that if Biden does pull the military out, where are we gonna go to war next? All of that money, that 750 billion a year, has to get spent somewhere. And that means a war (or wars) somewhere. Can’t we just slash the military budget by like two-thirds (or more) and spend that money here? On something that actually benefits the US? On healthcare, on the homeless, on infrastructure etc etc etc... Its fucking absurd, the amount of money that we spend on the military. And, apparently, it’s not even doing any good. The Taliban has 80% of Afghanistan, even though we’ve been there for two decades. Two decades! What the fuck?
Canadians financed a dam in Afghanistan. Our soldiers helped build it and protect it. Now there is no water in it and the road to it is falling apart. What is happening now was inevitable. We gave these people false hope and now they will suffer. These societies will only change from the inside. Better that we never were there.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan absolutely achieved their sole objective, which was to transfer an enormous amount of money to the defense industry. Mission Accomplished indeed.
When the Russians were in Afghanistan I can remember CBS Dan Rather gleefully promoting U.S. support for the rebels(Taliban) as a kind of payback for Vietnam. The Soviets had dared to support a government that had advanced women into professions like teachers and doctors. So we gave them stinger missiles to avenge the affront while our Saudi allies "educated" them in their fanatical Wahhabi doctrine. It should have been no surprise that those who train dogs to be vicious end up being bitten on the ass.
I lived and worked in Afghanistan for seven years (2008-14) for USAID as both a contractor and federal employee. I share and can corroborate the "you'll never believe this" stories and misguided experiences Mr. Bonenburger recounts in this article. As a "wrap" on the MRAP fiasco, I was at Kandahar Airfield in in 2013 when it became the largest chop-shop in the world: hundreds of the unwanted MRPAS (rollover prone, maintenance nightmare, gas guzzling behemoths ) had to be cut into scrap metal so Taliban would not get them after the base closures and drawdown of US forces. (The Soviets just left their tanks and armored vehicles behind and their rusting hulks noe litter the Afghanistan landscape as a reminder of the last failed foreign invasion/occupation of the country.)
I, too, wrote a memoir on my experiences as a "nation builder" in Afghanistan, as well as the year (2007-08) I spent in Iraq during the surge there when the burn-rate of US tax dollars was $10 billion/month. Think of how many airport modernizations and high-speed rail projects this money could have funded. I titled my book "When Will We Ever Learn." Just google my last name "Enzweiler" in the Amazon search bar and it will come up. It's free for Kindle Unlimited.
I chose this title because I was on Guan as a 2nd lieutenant USAF officer in late 1972 when the B-52s and KC-135 tankers from my base in SD mercilessly bombed Hanoi and Haiphong. As diplomat John Negroponte later remarked, "We bombed them (the North Vietnamese) into accepting our concessions." I recalled this quote one night in 2014 before I left at KAF as I was awakened by the F-16s taking off on another raid on some hapless Afghan village. As things have since transpired in Afghanistan (and as I predicted in in 2017 book), our country once again got involved in another foolish "war of choice" and carried out merciless bombing campaigns (with Trump and Mathis/McMaster in the roles of Nixon and McNamara/Kissinger) knowing the war effort was a lost cause. Once again we immorally bombed the local national resistance fighters (this time the Taliban) into accepting our concessions -- and got the same deal they agreed to ten years ago. It was "deja vue all over again" for me, as I recount in my book.
Excellent piece. This is why I signed up for TK News.